Who will lead the Forsaken in Shadowlands?
When we saw the Maw open up on the Shadowlands alpha, a lot of us noticed Calia Menethil conspicuously standing over by the Horde leaders. Between that and her appearance in Shadows Rising following along with Lillian Voss, it seems clear that if Calia wasn’t the leader for the Forsaken, she was on the track to becoming said leader. And then Lead Narrative Designer Steve Danuser had to come along and do his job as Lead Narrative Designer and design the narrative, and worse, tell people about it in an interview so I have to go back and say Okay, looks like Calia’s not the leader after all. Attaway to ruin a perfectly cromulent theory, Steve.
All gentle ribbing aside, in his interview with Wowhead Steve did discuss exactly why Calia was atop Icecrown Citadel in the Maw opening sequence, and it’s more personal than any idea of her as a Horde leader.
I don’t want to go into too much detail there, except I will say that if you think about Calia’s past and her family history, she has a personal involvement in the spectre of death that hangs over everything – and there’s no way that you can think of the Shadowlands and the power of death without thinking about Arthas and the Lich King and that legacy. So, I will say that Calia is involved in the Shadowlands more for her personal reasons than she is as a representative, or a leader in any way.
So that’s fair. But it does bring to mind one question — if Calia isn’t leading the Forsaken, who is? Is anybody?
The front runner is Lilian Voss
At present we don’t know for sure, but the front runner would clearly be Lilian Voss. She appears in Shadows Rising and we see her throughout Battle for Azeroth acting as a somewhat unwilling advocate for the Forsaken. It was Lilian who reached out to both Derek Proudmoore — who she defends as a Forsaken in the novel against the entire Horde Council — and Calia. Whatever is going on with the Forsaken leadership, it seems clear that both the Horde Council and the formerly living residents of Lordaeron have accepted her as someone who has their interests at heart. Considering the fact that Sylvanas wiped out the Desolate Council that had stepped in to keep Undercity functioning in the novel Before the Storm, this leaves Lilian the absolute front contender for leadership of the faction.
However, it definitely seems like a job Lilian doesn’t exactly want. Voss feels very much like the Forsaken equivalent of Mathias Shaw — clever, ruthlessly, deadly and more comfortable standing in the shadows to the left hand side of the throne than sitting on it herself. The problem is, who else is there? Who’s left of the Forsaken, now that the Desolate Council has been purged, to lead their people? To my mind, there’s only one candidate left.
Leonid Barthalomew the Redeemed is a Forsaken member of the Argent Crusade (formerly the Argent Dawn) who has served on the front lines of the war with the Scourge since even before he died and was raised by the Lich King. A Paladin in life, and a soldier even in death, Leonid is uniquely qualified to lead his people. As he himself once said, he is revered among the Argents for his many sacrifices, but their accolades mean nothing to him — he views his undead state not as a curse as Sylvanas did, but as a malady, something to be treated and dealt with. One of the original Forsaken, and one who always kept his own head and his own council and never followed anyone blindly, not even Sylvanas, he has a legitimacy few others could claim. Unlike Calia, he is Forsaken — no special magic of the Light was involved in his return and he suffers all the same effects as any other of his kind.
Leonid is, in short, almost the sole remaining original old guard of the Forsaken. He wasn’t as personally loyal to her as was Nathanos, instead seeking to confront the Scourge along the Argent Dawn and Argent Crusade. He has the respect and admiration of his fellow Argents, which is important since following Tirion Fordring’s death Leonid Bartholomew may well be one of the most important leaders left in the Crusade. If any Forsaken could manage to touch the Holy Light and be a Paladin, it would be Leonid.
And even better, Leonid worked with the Brotherhood of Light, and while he was wary of their fanaticism, he still understood that it had its uses, meaning that he would be likely able to find common cause with Lilian Voss when it came to leading and protecting the Forsaken. If Leonid chose to change his focus from fighting the Scourge to protecting the Forsaken, he could well make part of a formidable team working with Lilian. It’s not at all a guarantee that he would — Leonid is very committed to the destruction of the Scourge. If he did choose to lead the Forsaken, it would be extremely likely that he would point them in that direction.
Is there anybody else?
There are a few Forsaken characters of note besides Sylvanas and Nathanos, neither of which are likely to return — at least not until after Shadowlands itself, anyway — and frankly, almost none of these characters are in any position to lead the Forsaken. Alexi Barov is not a particularly important member of the Forsaken. Master Apothecary Faranell is a capable researcher but hardly a leader. Ranger Captain Areiel died fighting Shandris Feathermoon (never get into an archery contest with Shandris Feathermoon) but Dark Ranger Velonara is a dark horse candidate for Forsaken leadership. She’s the de facto leader of all the Dark Rangers who remained loyal to the Forsaken over Sylvanas, and she currently resides in Orgrimmar, where the Horde council meets. She is respected among the Forsaken and has played a pivotal role in the Horde offensive in Darkshore, meaning that she likely has allies in the rest of the Horde’s factions.
She’s not as well placed as Voss, but if Voss wants to be the power behind the throne instead of sitting in it herself, she could do worse than Velonara. I’d personally put her in as a less likely candidate than Barthalomew, but were she asked, she’d be more likely to be willing to lead the Forsaken than he would. Her loyalties are a touch conflicted — she was loyal to Sylvanas for years, and now considers herself a Sin’dorei as much as a Forsaken — but Barthalomew is as loyal to the Argents and thus is also conflicted.
These are the candidates as I see them. Everyone else is either gone, still loyal to Sylvanas, or both. But we’ll see — it’s possible that Calia will take up the role after Shadowlands, as Voss certainly seems to be pushing for her to be accepted among the Horde. Only time will tell.
Oh, and I suppose the breakout Forsaken celebrity of the final Saurfang cinematic, the Flag Girl, has a shot. Zekhan got a whole novel, so maybe there’s hope for her too.
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